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To P, or not to P (-Kill that is)?

by Ilya

Between the realms of playerkilling (PK, aka pkill, aka pvp, aka player vs. player, etc.) and non-playerkilling is a great gulf fixed. Most every online role playing gamer I've come in contact with either lives the life of a gung-ho all-or-nothing kill-or-be-killed PK'er or else pretty much avoids PK totally.

Why is that?

I've heard various explanations for why, and various arguments about whether the PK'er or the non-PK'er has chosen the true, proper, enlightened, superior course. Some I've read as recently as the week I started writing this article (first week of April, 1999) on the Usenet in the spam/flame/off topic groups.

Usenet Posts by the PK'ers Explain why Some Don't PK

Judging by the explanations offered in the spamnet newsgroups, I suppose an otherwise-uninformed observer would have to conclude that people who don't PK are:

Wimpy Loser Weakling Panty waist
Second-rate Pink pad Lamer Wusses

Non-PK'ers can't take the heat, and they really don't know what they are missing. The thrill of the hunt is incomparable. There's nothing like the challenge of fighting a real live opponent. There's nothing to get your blood pumping like the truly unpredictable moves of a fully intelligent opponent!

The implication is clear enough: since non-PK'ers can't handle PK, or don't like PK, there is something wrong with them. Or so the more voluble PK'ers who take the time to post on these matters would have us believe.

Usenet Posts by Non-PK'ers are Few, but Seem Mostly to Agree

Even some non-PK'ers themselves will tell you something similar. I read it within the last few days: "I don't PK because I don't do it well." This is the only post in recent memory. Surely some have made a better defense than that! I just can't recall who, or when, and I'm feeling a bit too lazy to check dejanews.

Side Note about the PK'er Bigots Ilya has Known

I believe that most who prefer PK are reasonable, rational people. It's just the ones I have played with! They weren't reasonable or rational in the least.

These foaming-at-the-mouth PK'ers I've come in contact with during actual play have held non-PK'ers in such disdain, in such contempt, in such utter disregard, that they couldn't even stand the thought of being in the same space with them. I mean, even if they were having fun PK'ing their other PK buddies, if they discovered that non-PK'ers were present in the same game they were, they would leave. They could not abide the presence of non-PK'ers, even if PK and non-PK were both viable options in the game. I assume that these rabid PK'ers are extremists, not the norm, but I have no proof.

Ilya's Opinion: Descending into the Twisted Abyss in Defense of non-PK'ers
Ilya's Explanation: Why I don't PK, and why I suspect many others don't either

I don't play full-on PK games. Let's get that clear -- I'm not interested in games where the primary activity is playerkilling.

This doesn't mean I play no games at all where PK is involved. Quite the contrary. I've had a great deal of fun in games where PK has about the same stigma as murder in real life. That is, it happens, and it's dangerous and, in general, a real but somewhat limited fear that you might be murdered. There are killers, and some get away with it. Many killers prefer not to risk it because of the penalties involved. I play games like this and enjoy them just fine.

So why don't I play the full-on PK games? I have three reasons which I think explain why many don't play such games. In keeping with my ever-scintillating writing style, I intend to captivate audiences the world 'round with these catchy names I've chosen:

  1. Brain itch not gland twitch;
  2. I'll pick my own time, thank you; and
  3. You build yours and I'll build mine

Okay, maybe they're not that catchy! But they are a start, and they represent a couple of serious attempts at explaining the great PK/non-PK divide.

Happy Jumping People

These people don't PK! Look how happy they are!

Brain Itch Not Gland Twitch

I don't PK because I strongly prefer games where I sit and think, where there is plenty of time to consider, and where my opponent has that same opportunity. I prefer a contest where the primary component was brain power, not physical reaction time. I enjoy a struggle where the outcome is almost purely based on thinking ahead, anticipating moves, deep strategy, and so forth.

Gland activity and physical reaction time and thinking VERY fast (along with well-written triggers and the like) are hallmarks of the successful PK encounter, as far as I can tell. That's fine with me: I'm just not interested.

Granted most non-PK muds aren't always slow/strategic/thoughtful. There are times, generally in combat, where things are moving fast and furious! But even then the level of challenge is pretty much under the control of the player, and the combat is begun and ended almost always at the player's choice.

I'll Pick My Own Time, Thank You!

I prefer to choose when, and exactly to what extent I have excitement, rest, and so forth in the games I play. I'll pick when I want combat, when I want study, when I want to make a supply run into town, and when I want to end combat.

This can be much less feasible in full-on PK games, where your opponents are plotting to create advantageous combat situations just as actively as you are, and where their plans may come to fruition at very inconvenient times for you. You want to make a supply run now? Great! Except that your PK enemies have laid an ambush for you. Out of heal potions? Pity. Guess you'll just have to go down.

Full-on PK games include a substantial element outside of the player's control. This 'uncontrolled element' is almost non-existent in limited or non-PK games. To me, that's a good thing.

You Build Yours and I'll Build Mine

I prefer games where all the players are at work building up their own piles, so to speak. That is, I am gathering my own pile of goodies (be it cash, equipment, levels, skills, whatever). You are also working on your own pile. Yours is growing faster? Good for you!

None of us increase our own pile by taking away from the others'.

Or, rather, I prefer that it work that way. I'd prefer to make it because I did it myself, not because I took it away from you. No victim or victimization. Some just get to their goals faster than others.


Are players who don't enjoy full-on PK a bunch of pink-pad lamer wusses who just can't hack it in the full-time total-war body slamming chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out world of 100% PK? Maybe. If PK'ers find comfort in thinking that, then I wish them all the comfort in the world!

For me, at least, I avoid full-on PK because I like games more thought-based than gland-based, games where I have a great deal of control over game play circumstances, and games where you don't need to take away from other players to get ahead yourself.

Doubtless a number of others feel much the same.

Ilya spends a great deal too much of his time thinking about and playing games. He used to help his wife Natalia run the Game Commandos site, which has a mud list and collects mud reviews. Who knows if he thinks about muds any more. He has vanished from the mud community.